Nameplate of The Liberator

This, the fourth and final nameplate of William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberator, comes from the paper’s edition on February 23, 1855. This nameplate first appeared on May 31, 1850 and remained at the top of the front page through the paper’s final edition on December 29, 1865.
Grade Level

This text is part of the Teaching Hard History Text Library and aligns with Key Concept 4.

THH Nameplate The Liberator
The Liberator Nameplate Full thh

Full Transcript available here.

This text is in the public domain. Retrieved from https://nmaahc.si.edu/object/nmaahc_2016.166.41.5?destination=explore/collection/search%3Fpage%3D5%26edan_q%3D%252A%253A%252A%26edan_local%3D1%26edan_fq%255B0%255D%3Dtopic%253A%2522Slavery%2522.
Text Dependent Questions
  1. Question
    How does this nameplate use Christianity to encourage abolition?
    The central image of the nameplate is a bearded figure in a robe carrying a cross—presumably intended to represent Jesus Christ. This Christ figure says, “I come to break the bonds of the oppressor,” which may be an allusion to Isaiah 58:6. This Christ figure looks down with condemnation upon a well-dressed white man who appears to have dropped a whip lying at his feet and appears to be in the process of running away. The Christ figure is moving toward a darker-skinned man without a shirt on and whose hands are shackled. As opposed to the white man who is backing away from the Christ figure, the darker-skinned man is kneeling before the Christ figure. In addition, a banner lies draped across the nameplate reading, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” which comes from Leviticus 19:18.
  2. Question
    What does the picture on the left side of the nameplate depict? What is the author’s message or intention?
    The image on the left side depicts the institution of slavery. In the foreground, a white auctioneer stands on a platform below a sign that advertises “Slaves, horses, & other cattle in lots to suit purchase.” The auction takes place below an American flag. Enslaved persons—signified by their darker skin and lower-quality clothing—wait next to the auction with horses and dogs. A small boy covers his face with his hands on the platform, presumably crying and in anguish. A woman embraces children, presumably her own children, with a look of fear and sadness, behind the platform. In front of the platform stand a number of well-dressed white men, all wearing top hats and overcoats. Two of these men sit on horses. These men have cold and fierce facial expressions. In the background, a number of people—presumably enslaved persons—stand in shackles before a figure in a hat wielding some sort of whip or club. These figures march toward a beautiful domed building with a banner reading “Slavery.” It is important that this picture is on the left, with many figures facing backward. The picture emphasizes the humanity of the enslaved persons and the inhumanity of the high-class white men, all surrounding this scene of the auctioneer and the crying child. The picture obviously seeks to capture the injustice of slavery in this way.
  3. Question
    What does the picture on the right side of the nameplate depict? What is the author’s message or intention?
    The image on the right side of the nameplate depicts the road to emancipation and freedom. A group of darker-skinned people exit from a tunnel, which may signify the Underground Railroad. They have cast down their spade and shovel, which lie to the right. To the left, two smaller children play with animals. The group includes three women. One of them sits in a chair and holds a baby. The other two converse behind the chair. A man who is well dressed also appears to be sitting in a chair, to the side of the woman and baby. He points—and two smaller boys point and walk towards—a scene in the background. In that scene, a large group of people who presumably depict formerly enslaved persons stand across from another group of people that hold flags, presumably patriotic Americans. This crowd with the flags stands under a gate or archway with the inscription “Emancipation.” Through that gate, farther in the distance, is another domed building that appears to represent the U.S. Capitol. Above this building flies a banner that reads “Freedom.” This image appearing on the right seems to imply that it is depicting the way forward. The jubilation and happiness and beauty of this scene stand in stark contrast to the gloom of the image on the left side of the nameplate, which depicts slavery.
Reveal Answers